Thursday, 10 February 2011

Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Please note: There are some spoilers for Chains for Laurie Halse Anderson in this review if you have not read it yet.

Goodreads Summary

In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.
The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

My thoughts and review

I loved reading the first book in the Seeds of America series, Chains so I had been looking forward to the UK release of Forge for a long time. I loved Isobel's determined character that was prepared to challenge the way her life was as a slave in New York and had the courage to run away with her friend Curzon. In Forge, there is a change in narrator to Curzon and although I missed the book being told from Isobel's point of view, I did warm to Curzon's voice too as I liked him in Chains.

At the beginning of the book we find Curzon on his own as Isobel has run away from him to find her little sister Ruth and he suddenly finds himself entangled with the patriots and forced to sign up as a private in the Continental army if he is to hide his true identity as a runaway slave who has been promised his freedom but has no documents to prove it.

This brings complications in itself for a harsh and relentless winter is about to set in and no one is prepared for what lies ahead. Laurie Halse Anderson describes vividly the bitterly cold conditions the 12,000 soldiers had to endure in Valley Forge with no barracks and no continuous supply of food. I enjoyed learning about the different types of foods that they ate to stay alive like  firecake (a burnt flour and water mix that tasted of ashes.) Despite this, the men always try to find some humour to lighten the situation and their attempts were very laughable. 
Through this ordeal Curzon can't stop himself thinking of Isobel and wondering if he will ever see her again as well as trying to sort out his feelings for her. Whilst I enjoyed all the description about the hardships of army life and Curzon's worries about how Isobel was faring, I felt that it dragged on for far too long (nearly half the book) and I felt like I was waiting for something to happen although I did like the twist at the end of it because I didn't see it coming.

The second half of the book and the ending is much more thrilling and had more of the spirit, adventure and excitement that I loved in Chains coupled with another cliffhanger. That is why Forge lives up to the 'historical thriller' label that Laurie Halse Anderson gives her historical fiction books to make them more appealing to children and teenagers. 

The joys and complications of human life is what I think makes Chains and Forge so accessible because Laurie Hale Anderson has created complex and easy to relate to characters who are not afraid to fight for what they believe in. I have grown to love them so that I really care about what happens to them and that is always a sign of fantastic writing.

It is clear that all the details about the Revolution have been carefully researched and it pays off because of the authenticity of it. A small touch that I also liked was the snippet from a letter or document about the army at the beginning of the chapter because it added to the atmosphere of the book.

Verdict: Whilst Forge didn't captivate me as much as Chains, I still really enjoyed it and found the historical side very interesting. I can't wait for the third installment of Isabel and Curzon's story, Ashes!

Looking for more about Isabel and Curzon's story? You may like my review of Chains.


  1. Thanks for the great review! I got this one for review, but I haven't read the first book. Sounds like something I should pick up!

  2. I hadn't heard of this series at all but it sounds fantastic. I must get around to reading 'Speak' too...

  3. LHA can do no wrong, in my humble opinion. She has a knack for capturing the perfect writing voice. I've yet to read this one, but I think I'd love it based on how I felt about Speak and Wintergirls :)

    Great review!

  4. I just gave you the Stylish Blogger Award:

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    @Leanna Yes, you should definitely get round to reading it but I reccommend you read Chains first in order to get the full emotive impact of the story.

    @Sam I haven't read Speak either but I want to soon!

    @Melissa I agree with you about LHA's writing but I haven't read Speak or Wintergirl's yet. Which do you recommend I start with?

    Zoe Crook- Thank you so much for thinking of me, that's very kind of you and I really appreciate it :)


I love comments, they make me smile! So thank you for taking the time to write one, I read all of them.
I try my best to reply here or on your blog :)

Stephanie x